Archives

Talk Books: Liberating Motherhood

liberatingmotherhood“Women’s liberation must be mothers’ liberation or it is nothing.”

–Germain Greer, in The Whole Woman, quoted in Liberating Motherhood

Since I have three homeschooled children (ages 6-13) and one toddler (2) who are all home full-time, as well as a home business, I often fell asleep with the book Liberating Motherhood in one hand and december-2016-001my nursing toddler asleep on the other arm. However, the mark of how much I liked a book can be told most reliably, not by my eventual typed review, but by the number of pages whose corners have been turned down. In case you can’t tell in the picture, that means that Liberating Motherhood is a winner. Complex. Witty. Wry. Assertive. Bold. A detailed manifesto of maternal feminism.

Liberating Motherhood is a fairly heavy read, made readable and engaging by Vanessa’s deft way with words, sharp wit, and clear explanations. It covers broad themes and weaves together issues of justice, ecofeminism, politics, and socialization in sections titled A Mother’s Body, A Mother’s Mind, a Mother’s Labour, and a Mother’s Heart. The core of the book is the argument that many mothers wish to actively mother their young children and yet are wholly unsupported in doing so. Patriarchy’s answer is subordination of women into a caregiving role that has no monetary or economic value or respect. Contemporary feminism’s answer is “full female employment” and outsourcing of childcare into a universal daycare system. Olorenshaw is assertive that the answer to the “problem of mothers,” is not more daycare, but rather more social and economic support, including a basic income. She is willing to tackle the classist assumptions that work outside of the home is inherently fulfilling for women, noting that the ability of women in the upper socieconomic status to “lean in” rests fully on the backs of lower paid, overworked women who are doing the work that no one else wants to do. However, she does not glamorize or romanticize the role of a stay-at-home mother either, exploring in-depth the economic and social vulnerability that women are placed in by depending on the income of a partner and exploring the potential for abuse and exploitation that results from this common social model.

I have consciously self-identified as a feminist since I was 13. After giving birth for the first time at september-2016-01124, I became immersed in the writing and world of “mother’s rights,” and at this time, became rebirthed as a maternal feminist. My spiritual path is that of a goddess-feminist and I have been also immersed for years on a goddess path that is firmly feminist in orientation. Since my feminism has been entwined for a long time with my mothering and with goddess-spirituality, I sometimes found that Vanessa was arguing against a type of feminism which I find mostly unrecognizable, or almost more of a caricature of feminism than that which I have found in my work in the world. In fact, one of my favorite quotes from a book of feminist thealogy is feminists make the best mothers. (Charlotte Caron, To Make and Make Again). I also write for the feminist blog, Feminism and Religion, and while there have been a few notable exceptions, the majority of writers there seem to embrace a maternally-inspired/influenced feminism, unlike some of the writers and leaders encountered by Olonrenshaw. I don’t find that as many contemporary feminist thinkers and writers ignore the issues of mothers and maternity as much as she asserts. I would also have liked to see some coverage of the life structures and experiences of women like me who find their solution combining mothering while working for themselves. I have long said that I am not looking for an “or,” but for the “and,” mothering while also working on other tasks!

Published by Womancraft Publishing, Liberating Motherhood takes on not only the patriarchy, but neoliberal capitalism and modern feminism as well in a complex brew of social critique, call to action, values-exploration, and manifesto. Unapologetically assertive and with a large dose of wry wit and candor, Olorenshaw explores the many ways in which an insidious social and cultural web is woven that simultaneously devalues and ignores women’s unpaid work, yet benefits greatly from its fulfillment.

“The problem is, for all the talk of women’s liberation, when it is predicated on liberation from motherhood, it is no liberation at all. When feminism is based on ideas of equality which ignore the actual reality of her life, her deep wish to care for her children, and deny the value of caring, a mother is in chains. We need to get going on liberating motherhood. We can say loud and clear that: ‘I don’t need liberating from motherhood: motherhood needs to be liberated from a system which devalues it, devalues us and devalues our children.”

–Vanessa Olorenshaw, Liberating Motherhood

september-2016-184

Save

Save

Guest Post: The Midwife as a Storyteller and Teacher by Patricia Harman

The use of old-fashioned narrative to influence, and inform patients about health practices

As an author of memoirs, historical fiction and children’s literature, I am a storyteller, but I’m also a nurse-midwife, and I use storytelling as one of my primary teaching tools.

Storytelling is uniquely human.  Anthropologists have argued that storytelling is pre-verbal, that pictographs on the inside of caves are in fact stories.  Form the earliest days humankind has used narrative to record history, to entertain, to convey experience and to transfer information.

To convey information in narrative form is something no other species can do.  It’s an evolutionary advantage and allows each individual to harbor  more information than personal experience would allow.

Using stories to teach patients is not unique to midwives.  All good providers use stories to illustrate May 2016 004how individuals can make better health choices.

We all know that many patients are non-traditional learners  and even those in higher education love a good story.  Research and statistics are boring for most people and easy to forget .  Many patients, even if given a handout drop it in the trash as they leave our office. They don’t have time to read it or are non-readers.

On the other hand, if I tell a tale, in an amusing way, about a young woman who refused to take her birth control pills because she was worried they would make her fat…and now she’s pregnant…that’s a cautionary tale and brings a smile and a knowing nod from the fifteen-year-old here to discuss birth control: That’s not going to happen to her!  

Using self-disclosure about your own life can humanize a professional relationship and help patients be more honest with you about their lives.  For example, I might say with a smile, that I’ve gone to Weight Watchers for so long I could teach the class, even though I’ve never reached goal weight.  The patient and I share a good laugh and now she feels comfortable telling me she can’t stand to look in the mirror, has tried four different TV diets and is terribly discouraged.  A door for real communication has opened.  She no longer feels alone and she knows she has me as a non-judgmental advocate.

Stories can accomplish what no other form of communication can do; they can get through to hearts with a message.  I might tell a very stressed-out college student, sitting on the end of the exam table, about a patient of mine who had two jobs and was studying nursing full time.  Last year she started getting a series of illnesses.  Next thing she knew, she flunked two courses, lost her boyfriend and had a motor vehicle accident.  The moral is clear: don’t take on more than is humanly possible.  And the tale is more likely to induce lifestyle change than a lecture.

All health care providers, surgeons, nurses, physical therapists, family doctors or midwives must be teachers.  If you missed that part in school, it’s not too late.  With humor and love we can become part of the human story that will bring health and hope to our patients.

For the past twenty years, Patricia Harman has been a nurse-midwife on the faculty of The Ohio harman-2008-by_bob_kosturko-330State University, Case Western Reserve University and most recently West Virginia University. In 1998 she went into private practice with her husband, Tom, an OB/Gyn, in Morgantown, West Virginia. Here they devoted their lives to caring for women and bringing babies into the world in a gentle way. Patricia Harman still lives with her husband, Thomas Harman, in Morgantown, West Virginia. She recently retired from her thirty-five years of midwifery so she could write more books for people like you!

My past reviews of Patsy’s books:

Past blog posts on the subject of story power: october-2016-240

Save

Happy Mother’s Day!

26717489411_9d767fc783_o…See your worth
hear your value
sing your body’s power
and potency
dance your dreams
recognize within yourself
that which you do so well
so invisibly
and with such love…

(via: A Prayer for Mothers)

As I consider mothers, women, and women’s power this weekend, I have some resources and thoughts to share with you:

May you celebrate yourself this week and in the year to come.

Happy Mother’s Day!

March 2016 016

Tuesday Tidbits: International Women’s Day

10286915_1714565075422374_6164793523246448200_o

Today is International Women’s Day! In addition to my work online and face-to-face with women as well as with the products offered by our shop, I support two resources that help make every day “international women’s day.” I sponsor a woman through Women for Women International and I keep multiple microloans going at Kiva – Loans that change lives. We started making Kiva loans in 2012 when we covered economic freedom in the Cakes for the Queen of Heaven feminist spirituality class I was teaching at the time. We decided to put our money where our mouths were and make a collective loan, from our women’s circle to a women’s circle somewhere else in the world. We collected $50 from the members of the circle and I made two microloans to two different women’s groups, both in Senegal. A few more women contributed in later months, I contributed another $25 of my own and we got a $25 referral credit, and I’ve steadily kept microloans going there ever since, loaning a total of $650 to 26 different women’s groups in 19 countries since we began. The cool thing is that this did not cost me $650, instead it is the same, original money from that long-ago Cakes class that I keep relending as soon as my Kiva account builds up to $25 in repayments. There are 7 loans currently going, from what was originally only $50. Just a drop in the bucket. I encourage you to do this too!

More International Women’s Day Resources:

A collection of recent women’s circle-oriented blog posts and resources:12772035_1711717539040461_2725422556128238837_o

Past posts about Women’s Day:

“The minute my child was born, I was reborn as a feminist. It’s so incredible what women can do…Birthing naturally, as most women do around the globe, is a superhuman act. You leave behind the comforts of being human and plunge back into being an animal. My friend’s partner said, ‘Birth is like going for a swim in the ocean. Will there be a riptide? A big storm? Or will it just be a beautiful, sunny little dip?’ Its indeterminate length, the mystery of its process, is so much a part of the nature of birth. The regimentation of a hospital birth that wants to make it happen and use their gizmos to maximum effect is counter to birth in general.”

–Ani DiFranco interviewed in Mothering magazine, May/June 2008

Source: International Women’s Day, Birth Activism, and Feminism | Talk Birth

12768175_1711716759040539_6469665706064455536_o

Free Mini Course: Womanspirit Wisdom

I’ve developed three new free mini courses to offer this year. The first is ready to roll and begins on February 1!

Here are the details…

Womanspirit Wisdom

IMG_0173This three-week ecourse is designed to offer you a gently nourishing daily “sacred pause.” Beginning February 1, each day for 21 days, take a moment and simply receive. There is nothing to do, just enjoy taking a daily minute to connect with yourself.

Includes:

Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Planning

December 2015 017

My post from last week about recovering from childbirth sent me on a blog-excavation mission for all the posts I’ve written about postpartum care. This is just a sampling (I’ve written a lot on the subject):

“I needed a maternal figure, a dedicated and present midwife, dear and loving friends. I was blessed with one out of three. It could have been worse. The only people I know who did just fine in the postpartum period are those who score the triumvirate: well cared for in birth, surrounded by supportive peers, helpful elders to stay with them for a time. The others, wild-eyed at the supermarket, prone to tears, unable to nurse or sleep or breathe, a little too eager to make friends at baby groups – I can spot them at 20 paces. We form a vast and sorry club…”

via My friend breastfed my baby | Life and style | The Guardian.

Source: Weekly Tidbits: Birth, Postpartum, the Triumvirate, and Anthropology | Talk Birth

Other, experienced women can be our most powerful source of support:

Women around the world and throughout time have known how to take care of each other in birth. They’ve shown each other the best positions for comfort in labor, they’ve used nurturing touch and repeated soothing words, and they’ve literally held each other up when it’s needed the most…

–The Doula Guide to Birth

Source: Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Recovery | Talk Birth

I’ve spent a lot of time talking and writing about the culture that surrounds us and the resultant impact on our birth, breastfeeding, and early parenting experiences:

The United States are not known for their postpartum care practices. Many women are left caught completely off guard by the postpartum recovery experience and dogged by the nagging self-expectation to do and be it all and that to be a “good mother” means bouncing back, not needing help, and loving every minute of it.

Source: Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Mamas | Talk Birth

It isn’t just me writing about the impact of culture on maternal mental health, this post calls it like it is:

Let’s stop torturing mothers. Let’s stop ignoring the problem of expecting new mums to get back to normal. They are not normal, they are super important, and we need to value them and treat them with the greatest respect, if we don’t want them to break into a million pieces, shattering the lives of all those around them.

Source: Torturing new mothers and then wondering why they get mentally ill. | Mia’s Blog

This insightful article full of helpful tips for supporting postpartum women by my friend Summer got a lot of attention when I re-shared it on Facebook last week:

An unfortunate by-product of our society’s refusal to see birth as a monumental event is the lack of a babymoon or restful, supported postpartum period. Most of the time, moms and dads are expected to pick up with their everyday lives almost immediately.

The Incredible Importance of Postpartum Support | Midwives, Doulas, Home Birth, OH MY!

I offer some survival tips here: Postpartum Survival Tips | Talk Birth

And, one of my favorite guest posts that I’ve ever hosted on this site is this one about postpartum planning: Guest Post: Mothers Matter–Creating a Postpartum Plan | Talk Birth

When considering postpartum planning as well as talking about it to others, I find that visualizing the placental site that is healing can be a helpful jolt reminding us how important good postpartum care is:

“Remind them that a true six-week postpartum window allows for the placenta site to fully heal and supports minimized bleeding and stronger recovery.” An excellent tip for educators and doulas from Barbeau is to illustrate size of placental site healing area with hands like small dinner plate—if this was outside the body, how would you care for yourself…

Source: Timeless Days: More Postpartum Planning | Talk Birth

And, some final reminders about good postpartum care for women themselves and for those who love them:

I recently finished a series of classes with some truly beautiful, anticipatory, and excited pregnant women and their partners. I cover postpartum planning during the final class and I always feel a tension between accurately addressing the emotional upheavals of welcoming a baby into your life and marriage and “protecting,” in a sense, their innocent, hopeful, eager, and joyful awaiting of their newborns.

This time, I started with a new quote that I think is beautifully true as well as appropriately cautionary: “The first few months after a baby comes can be a lot like floating in a jar of honey—very sweet and golden, but very sticky too.” –American College of Nurse-Midwives

Source: Some reminders for postpartum mamas & those who love them | Talk Birth

December 2015 029

Guest Post: Holiday Coping: Dealing With Infertility or Adoption Process During The Festive Season

cropOctober 2015 055

I distinctly remember sitting through Thanksgiving and Christmas after the loss of my third baby. The sense of hollowness. The sense of having to put on a happy face. Guilt for laughing. Guilt for not laughing. Going through the motions. Pretending to be okay. When I received this short guest post on coping with infertility during the holidays, it brought back those memories of tension, strain, and grief.

Executive Director of The Adoption Consultancy and BeyondInfertility.com Nicole Witt–remembers a personal story of “holiday coping” years ago during the festive holidays:

Early on in Nicole’s marriage, before anyone knew that she and her husband were having fertility struggles, Nicole was at a family holiday gathering.  A family member started showing her pictures of a recent get-together she had had with her college girlfriends.  As she showed Nicole each picture, the only information she gave to her about each woman was what children she had.  Such as, “Here’s Susie. She has a 6 year old boy and a 4 year old girl.”  “And here’s Jodie who’s a stay-at-home mom to her 5 year old twin girls….”  It seemed to be how she defined each woman and it left Nicole wondering how this family member would define her to others.  Was Nicole nothing without kids?  This is just one scenario that someone may have to cope with this holiday season.

We all have that crazy cousin, drunk uncle, overly-concerned parent or blunt friend who might say or do something this holiday that will make us cringe, but here are some tips on how to cope from Nicole Witt:

  1. Think Ahead: Make a plan ahead of time.  This can include practicing responses to probing questions that you know you’ll be asked.  Or it can be a signal to your partner that it’s time to fake a sickness and leave.  It can also be recruiting and educating trusted family members on how & when to redirect inappropriate dinner table conversations so that you don’t have to.
  2. Take “Me” Time: Step away.  This was the most effective tip for me.  I would just take a few minutes in the bathroom to myself for some deep breaths and refocusing.  Once I had gathered myself, I would have the strength to rejoin the group, at least for a little while.
  3. It is OK to Say “No!”: Say ‘no’ to invitations that will be too difficult for you.  It’s OK to not accept every invitation you get.  Even if it’s for your family’s traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  Maybe create an urgent trip that you need to go on that week.  Although it may be difficult to do, if it’s easier than attending the event, don’t hesitate.

During the holiday season this year, The Adoption Consultancy and BeyondInfertilty.com along with Nicole are inviting others to share their holiday coping stories via @AdoptConsultant and @BeyondIF with the hashtag #holidaycoping.  We would love to hear from your readers this holiday season to share their stories, whether they are funny, sad, frustrating or heartwarming.  Everybody needs a place to vent to an audience that truly understands.

Happy “Coping” Holidays.